Giant pumpkin grower Dale Marshall is among Alaska’s most famous agricultural superstars. Each year, the Anchorage green thumb tows a gargantuan gourd to the Alaska State Fair for the annual giant pumpkin weigh off.
This year, Marshall turned in a 2,023.5-pound monster on Aug. 28, which isn’t even his largest pumpkin, not by a long shot. Last year, he shattered his previous record with a 2,147-pound giant.
In many ways, Marshall’s eye-popping contributions serve as a reminder that the Alaska State Fair, like many across the nation, was founded as an agricultural and livestock event with fun and games sprinkled in.
Alaska’s premier fair started in 1936, organized by the agricultural fraternal group, Northland Pioneer Grange No. 1. That first event included giant cabbages that were showcased alongside many other veggies.
The tradition of American fairs dates back at least 225 years, but many of these historic community events have gradually drifted from their agricultural and farming roots. As fewer Americans live or work on farms, the art of animal husbandry and crop growing has waned.
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Even in the Mat-Su Valley, a historic agricultural community, many long-time family farms have shuttered to make way for housing and commercial developments.
While the State of Alaska is attempting to promote local farming and food security through state initiatives and incentives, growers like Marshall recall the glory days when crops were king of the fair.
Marshall still has a way to go, however, before he begins threatening the all-time world record, which was set in 2021 by Italian Stefano Cutrupi. That record smashing squash came in at 2,702 pounds, according to Guinness World Records.
The U.S. record was set last year by a Minnesota man who grew a 2,560-pound gourd.